Thursday, December 27, 2012

On Nowhere to Go

There is a piece in the magazine The Week about Patrick Stewart, the actor.  He always knew when his father was about to erupt into violence when he came home from the pub.  If he was singing Irish folk songs they and their mother were safe. But if he sang army songs, trouble was ahead.   In a bad mood his father would find fault with something and the trouble would escalate.  His mother was often lying on the floor bleeding and the police were called. They somehow managed to blame the mother for provocation and nothing happened.

    The point is what do  you do when the person who is supposed to protect you becomes the danger? The mother is too weak to help out, so where do you go? Mainly inside.  And then drugs ease the inner torment that never leaves.

    Or in the case of incest, and I have seen it dozens of times; the child is traumatized and she runs to her mother.  The mother blames the child for provoking daddy. Now where does she go?   Inside.  Her protector became her danger,  while her mother became complicit in the crime.   The child not only suffered horrible abuse but then is blamed for it.  An incredible double crime that is not soon gotten over.  And indeed in both these cases it takes a long time to even begin to approach the damage.

   The  mother in incest cases is only too happy for the child to take over her sexual duties.  And she eases her own blame by blaming the child.  It  takes months and even years to feel all that and integrate it.    We can tell how horrendous it is by how long to it takes to get over it.  Counseling and discussion won’t do it.   It is far too deep; there was no help, no one to talk to or lean on.   The child is totally on his or her own.  No relief.  And the imprint lingers and there is never any relief; yes the child can grow up and discuss it all in counseling groups that offers insight but never the kind of help needed.  The damage is to feelings and is to feelings that we must go.  It is not just intellectual damage although there is that too.  But to go back into the damaging situation and experiencing  again seems like it is asking too much; I agree but it is the only way to eliminate the damage.  It has to be felt little by little and integrated a bit at a time.

   The feeling system holds those memories in storage permanently and will never let go until they are acknowledged and experienced with all its agony. Many of us never want to go there but there is no choice if we understand how the system works.   And if we want to stop our suffering, and therefore our addiction we must return to the scene of the crime.  Can we imagine trying to solve a c rime by never visiting it; only trying to look at the evidence from a distance?  Good luck.  The crime remains pristine pure locked away in our limbic system ready to be looked at and felt when we are ready.  And for that we need help; no one can do that on his own.  No one will go there  voluntarily.   But if our therapist doesn’t believe in that damage then all hope is lost. The loser?  The person who must go on suffering.


  1. Art,

    I thought this was a great, straight-forward statement.

  2. wow, This is so true and accurate and on the same day as Roman church blames women for their own domestic terrorism.

    Another aspect to this is the secret courts which deal with domestic violence and again protective mother is blamed if she does try to protect and in over 80% of cases the perpetrator gains full custody of the children.

    Court experts blame the child victims for lying.

    We also have worldwide now lawyers advising victims of DV and child abuse not to dare mention either in court or be punished.

    I could write an entire article on how it feels to witness your own daughter being sexually abused and then try to protect her and be unable to speak a word for days from shock, then be blamed for failure to protect for reporting the abuse and seeking help.

    Many protective mothers now do not come forward as they know the consequences- the abuser will have the child victims 24-7 because of the way the judges etc are groomed to think- All mothers are feeble minded, all children are liars.

    Oh yes, under Catholic church, it is the children who tempt the fathers into incest...much easier to blame the children of Eve ill Eve than male pillars of society.

    The lifelong damage can never be articulated as I well know.

    1. Portia: And now it is the boy scouts... They and the catholic church can act like criminal entreprises. art

  3. Hi,

    No-where-to-go. . .

    Having just had my kids/grandson over to stay at Christmas for the first time in 3 years (all of us with flu & neurosis symptoms), I arranged to stay one night with my Dad 120 miles away on Boxing Day; and my Mum in a Dementia Care Unit close by the next morning.

    Neither of these two 'stalwarts of parenting' have had anything to do with their grandchildren nor have they shown more than a passing interest in their children's lives. Mostly, they have both delivered a CBT philosophy of 'personal responsibility and reverence of parental control' and sent us brothers away to boarding school, to another set of abusers.

    This is the journal note I made before I went in to see Mum at about 11am having stayed the night with Dad:

    -"Here I am sat waiting for Mum in the day room, an old lady whimpers in the corner and the staff play electronic games on their phones, the TV rabbiting on blithely in the background. . . I arrived but Mum was in the loo. They say they'll get some clothes onto her, one of the nice Malaysian male nurses says she doesn't like getting dressed. . .
    I apologised for my Mum and he smiled.

    I just have this picture of a woman who has regressed back to a toddler in nappies. . .
    My feelings? Fear. OF what?
    In my thoughts I think, I ruminate resentment. She didn't look after my needs and now she has reverted to needing all her needs being met by others. . .
    I am feeling the loss, feeling my unmet needs whilst having to bow to hers.

    It Rankles"-.

    Then I get the signal to go in to see my Mum. I stayed for about 45 minutes, afterwards in the car, I wrote this:

    -"But to see her, the old muttering crone she has become, I still feel the heart in her, she still feels the heart in me, I still feel compassion for her and her for me.

    It is my Dad I am tortured over. . . He has consistently rejected me in favour of his own opinions- about me and everyone else. . .

    He "re-arranges" family members into a "marketing edge" of loyalties. . . as if his friends and family are 'chess pieces'. . .

    He is a socio-path"-. . .

    I have realised that I have been playing the 'Stockholm Syndrome' game with my parents for years. In this 'locked in' control trip I constantly adjust my unmet needs to theirs. . . I don't even know I'm doing it. I don't know because from the original trauma I am so repressed I mistake niceness for empathy. You see, all it takes is a few kind words and then the abuser can 'get away with whatever they want'. . . After all they are being so nice about it. What am I complaining about? Can't I see how 'nice' people are being to me? Why am I so resentful?

    So empathy becomes a word we don't understand but it is still in the dictionary and is 'taught in counselling training'. . . How can you teach empathy?

    No-where-to-go. . .

    When the world is such a 'nice place to be' and empathy is merely another word there is no-where-to-go, except perhaps the clinic.

    Paul G.

  4. Hi,

    I just watched a documentary in which Patrick Stewart takes his hero, racing driver Sterling Moss on a tour of race tracks in vintage machines.

    I was struck by Patrick Stewart's excessive "Hero Worship" of Sterling Moss. They even look a little similar. . .

    Now I had no idea of the personal history until I realised it's the same Patrick Stewart you are telling us about.

    There's something really nasty about the way boys are made into whipping posts for their fathers and then subsequently 'chase after' hero / father substitutes endlessly perpetuating the false reverence of authority. Does Patrick Stewart realise this?

    Paul G.

    1. Paul: I am sure he does not; otherwise he would not worship Moss. art

  5. Brilliant post, Dr Janov! I knew a social worker once who suggested that if a mother has died a daughter was a convenient outlet for his sexual needs, I quote him: 'If you take the emotion out of it!' He never understood why his insensitive remark horrified me. That was 30 years ago. I hoped he would never had a daughter. He already had two sons. He had a daughter the following year. I often feared for her but never met her. I can well understand how if the father is dangerous and the mother doesn't protect the child there is no where to go but in for it happened to me in my childhood. I have always had a tendency to be reclusive and I am certain there is a link in this need to what happened in childhood. A form of protection in a way from a (past?) hostile environment. There are many good mothers who put their children first and wouldnt stay with a violent or a sexually perverted husband. Perhaps the only reason they have stayed in the past has been for financial reasons. This is why it is important for women to earn a living wage. But if as you say it takes a long time if not years to heal from this sort of past then it makes primal therapy an impossibility for me because I havent the money to undergo a long time in primal therapy and it does cause a sense of hopelessness for anyone in this particular type of repressive childhood.So what is the answer? I think the law must punish mothers who refuse to take motherhood seriously and protect their children for they are (almost) as guilty as the perpetrators for allowing such abuse to continue.

    1. My Mother stayed with my Father but seeing that I think she most probably (oh damn she did!) abuse me too she was as bad. My Mother used to make many comments that now suggest to me that she was abused by her own Father. Seeing that many of us tend to marry into families with similar belief systems and moral codes (there is sexual abuse of various levels in the family I have married into and the one my sister has married into (( a suicide of a victim)) though on my wife's side it is not seen as such. I can see that it was perfectly rational that a woman who was abused as a girl would then marry a man who was also an abuser. Such a Mother would then feel it was legitimate to allow abuse to go on to protect herself from her husbands sexual demands as that meant she would not face the very act that would cause her to get close to her own denied abuse. My Mother denied her children's abuse because that way she could also carry on denying her own abuse at the hands of her Father. That fact that her brother was abused by his Mother (a concrete fact) suggests deep seated and unaknowledged abuse running through both side of my family like letters through a stick of rock. It is overwhelming for me sometimes. Getting in touch with myself as a child means getting in touch with a complete sense of hopelessness and abandonment and that's tough shit. Is it any wonder that most of my family have cut off contact with me because my courage to face my past raises the Spectre of massive shame on their part. Society is much more open to discussing and facing sexual abuse than it was say 50 or 100 years ago and so such families are far more likely to face justice should one child speak out.

    2. Hi Anonymous,
      I know of cases where the abused woman was lobotomised too (less 'resistant'). It was true stories like this that propelled my membership of the feminist movement in the 1970s. I used to read Spare Rib with my very intellectual girlfriend at the time.

      It's all true. The only 'logic' I have found that doesn't wrap me and every other feeling man in dreadful guilt about it (because of our own, usually minor testosterone fuelled transgressions) is Primal. I hate the way men have gained the upper hand and control of the means of production. I hate seeing men take advantage of women and I hate all the things that prevent women from getting their needs met. I spent so much time and money trying to be a 'New Man' I can not tell you. I even joined the CITB 'Steps into Work Scheme' and took on a Woman Apprentice in our business to train her as a carpenter. Currently my trade association has done the same thing ten years later. A while back, I only got my tyres changed where there was a female tyre fitter. Can you imagine that? She was 17, had a very strong local accent and was clearly very good at it, she wasn't a big girl either, ie: she had 'technique', not brawn.

      During the war, just up the road the same female locals (her great grand mothers and great aunties) built Spitfires and Wellington Bombers on 16 hour night shifts (whilst their Husbands and Uncles were on the beaches of Normandy).

      The Israelis did a study of women on Kibbutz where 'equal opportunities' was promoted to the enth degree and basically although the women were mostly better at driving the tractors in the fields and even liked it more than the men they still preferred to be with their kids doing the child care. So guess who ended up driving the tractors and who ended up staffing the children's dormitories?

      It's worse in India. . . Indian men have virtually no comprehension of 'equality' what so-ever, Maharishi never addressed that either! F*****g TM. Though the most savvy women businesspersons are Asian, in my opinion. Some of them practice TM and teach it too.

      If there ever was a Feminist movement that really had it's socks pulled together it would be the Asian Feminist movement.

      Maybe also the African, I travelled there as a young man once. I decided I really couldn't handle seeing desperately poor people sneer at me for being so desperately rich. Not all the people I met were like that, some felt genuinely sorry for me. . .

      Paul G.

  6. During the time when our need of our mother is vital is our mother "allowed" to do anything... we still return with our needs to her... if not directly... well indirectly of illutions... that's where we are lost in our "sense" in need of love of mom. We attribute someone or something else to fill the space of needs... need of our mother and we are lost in our own ok to that.
    That is why it is an incredibly complicated process... we have become something we are not... and from there... we are supposed to find who we are?
    I am for what my neo cortex tell me to be... and that is not to be my self... that is to be instead of what I am... am of fear to be my self.
    We need in a safe place... to ask our self... in a gently way of love... help eachother... be with our fear and talk to our mom for what now is and then was. The center is the outmost best place but we are without money!


  7. Wow this hit many buttons with me. I was such a child. Someone who had no-one to turn to so the abuse I suffered went very deep. I believe I was punished when I was very small for being open by telling my Mother of the abuse that happened. I was 3 and whether that is first line or early second line it is still very traumatic. I have spent my whole life never believing that anyone took me seriously probably because of that early experience. I have always felt the need to hammer home my feelings when people have taken on board what I have said or requested and all down to those early experiences. To have a therapist who does not believe one is just as traumatising. So many people don't believe themselves so need someone to believe them again and again until the mind can start to trust after decades of distrust. Having grown up picking up a Parents subconcious needs and being who that Parent wants them to be these people can easily be who the therapist wants them to be. If society is in denial of the prevalence of female abuse of children for example then many therapists will fit in with society as did Freud. If a patient has to fight to be believed then it is exhausting and counter productive and re-traumatising. If many women who have become lesbians because of abuse by a Father/Uncle/Brother then how many men have become gay because of abuse by a Mother but because until very recently women abusers were not even recognised as a substantial block of the abusers out there these men were condemned to never be in touch with their true selves.

    Finally sometimes people don't get to a scene of abuse voluntarily but perhaps life becomes so overwhelming that the gates snap open and everything comes tumbling out in sounds, bodily twitches, physical symptoms and dreams. Clues from what other relatives say or do help to piece together these events but they are still in the darkness and only partially felt. One can end up in a no-mans land of semi-feelings and that is an incredibly frustrating place to be.

    1. Planespotter: Indeed it is. art. Since when did patients lose their right to be believed?

  8. "No one will go there voluntarily."
    It proves to be true again and again.
    One needs someone able to not be distracted by our attempts to distract him/her as we try to distract ourselves from what is really going on...

    1. Anonymous: We can help you with the therapy. Remember that. art

    2. Dr Janov
      Please, which anonymous are you talking to here with your remark. The one in the States (judging by the blog poster times!) or the one who blogged earlier on this post?

  9. An email comment:
    " Thank you for all the blogs this year. Todays hits home! I had both! My "self-therapy" began on July 26, 1987 with an unbelievable flashback. The psychiatrist I had been seeing at the time was a Freudian whose only response to my report of the flashback was "if repression doesn't work!" It was my sheer luck that I had read Alice Miller's books on the wrongness of Freudian theory. Even though my emerging emotions clearly told me not to return to this psychiatrist, I stayed on until I was flat broke. When I reported sensing sexual abuse by my dying father (I was two!), he said "There's no evidence", and had I not noticed how "seductive" little girls act?" My repulsion and rage grew and I finally quit all "helpers" after about 30 years of various "therapies", four suicide attempts, all while in coundeling, voluntary hospitalizations, anxiety, panic attacks and depression; I continued on my own. What I have discovered and suffered since then nobody would ever belileve, let alone any of the myriad "helping professionals" I had seen over the years.

    Although this kind of work is isolating because of how much undetected suffering and abuse one begins to feel, and see everywhere, without being able to share it, it is ultimately life-saving. How foolish all these searches about "motive" in the aftermath of those horrible shootings seem. Nobody ever mentions unconscious motive. What pain those shooters' unconscious minds must have held! At times I wonder what's buried deep inside the pope's mind!

    Thank you for the opportunity to share this with you. I continue the work on my own.

    1. Well done, to the emailer here! You sound strong and courageous and true to your self.

  10. Dr. Janov,
    This post opened all emotional flood-gates.
    Memory after memory!!!!!
    Repression is necessary to function!!!!!

  11. An email comment:
    "I think some of us who have violent families like that develop a 6th sense. Like Mr. Stewarts, its a survival mechanism. I am sure you must have some of this in you Art. I can usually tell allot about people by their physical sense of self. Friends I have, who used to fist fight with their brothers, to see who could sell Gum to the tourists, in Tijuana. Have it, and I can feel that in them right away, on first meeting. Boxers have it. After getting hit so many times you develops your propriocepters,. you feel the energy before it happens. Just as people have a sort of radar, when it comes to sensing sexual orientation. Some people can spot perps, in the same way. It's funny about neurosis, it makes some people unconscious- intuitively blind to others, but it can make others hyper aware, or unconsciously aware to a very high degree.

    Still I think it's possible to feel those feelings without help. For me Its not a question of not wanting to go there. It really hurt me, and sometimes it still does, for me its not very complicated. Perpetrators make it complicated, they have to mess with your head because they don't want you to tell. And also they want to control you. Sometimes therapists get in the way. I will just end up testing them, over and over again, and evaluating their reactions, and if they exhale wrong I am done. No explainations, no goodbyes, out the door. Group was much better for me. I felt safer there. It gave me access. "


Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.